Discovery Listening Skill 1: Focus on the Other Person

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By Gary Smalley
Sep 5, 2003, 12:58

*Open posture. Face your mate. If you are sitting, turn your chair toward each other and then relax. Unfold your arms and your legs-as folded appendages send a subliminal message of being "on guard" or "closed-minded." Unfolding your appendages sends a signal that you are letting down your guard and literally welcoming your mate inside your space.

*Encouraging nods and acknowledging words. You must let your mate know that you're focused on what he or she is saying. All it takes is an occasional nod or a word-just a single word!-of affirmation, as simple as "Yes," "Uh-huh," or "I see."

*Eye contact. During one of the Demmitts' workshops, a wife told her husband, "When you look at me while I'm talking it's like you are touching me with your eyes." What a powerful mode of unspoken conversation! Making eye contact is, of course, one of the directions on the ultimate relationship roadmap. In her book, You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen cites research in which children were given a subject to dicuss. The little boys didn't look at each other as they spoke; they sat side-by-side and stared into space. However, the little girls turned their chairs toward each other and watched each other with full attention as they conversed. This behavior continued through childhood and young adulthood. Its meaning? Men must learn to focus most on maintaining eye contact.

*Touch. This is the most powerful nonverbal listening skill, the way to immediately drain anger from a situation. Just try it. I think you'll discover that when you touch your mate while you listen-holding hands, knees touching, a pat on the back-you will find it hard to focus on anger. But remember that this does not mean anything that could be remotely considered a sexual touch, which can ignite anger and unleash pain when you're dealing with an unresolved issue.

*Set the scene. Eliminating distractions is paramount to discovery listening. Turn off the TV, unplug the phone make arrangements for the kids. Let your mate know that listening is more important than anything else to you at this moment.

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